catastrophism

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catastrophism

(kətăs`trəfĭzəm), in geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. The theory, popularly accepted from the earliest times, was attacked in the late 18th cent., notably by James Hutton, who may be regarded as the precursor of the opposite doctrine of uniformitarianismuniformitarianism,
in geology, doctrine holding that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth's surface.
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.

Catastrophism, however, was more easily correlated with religious doctrines (e.g., the Mosaic account of the Flood) and remained for some time the interpretation of the earth's history accepted by the great majority of geologists. It was systematized and defended by the Frenchman Georges CuvierCuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron
, 1769–1832, French naturalist, b. Montbéliard, studied at the academy of Stuttgart. From 1795 he taught in the Jardin des Plantes.
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, whose position as the greatest geologist of his day easily overbore all opposition. In the 19th cent., it was attacked by George Poulett Scrope and especially by Sir Charles LyellLyell, Sir Charles
, 1797–1875, British geologist. After studying and briefly practicing law, he spent most of his life in travel and in popularizing scientific ideas.
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, under whose influence the contrary doctrine gradually became more popular. Recent theories of meteorite, asteroid, or comet impacts triggering mass extinctionsmass extinction,
the extinction of a large percentage of the earth's species, opening ecological niches for other species to fill. There have been at least ten such events.
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 can be interpreted as a revival of catastrophism.

Bibliography

See R. Huggett, Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets, and Other Dynamic Events in Earth History (1998); T. Palmer, Controversy: Catastrophism and Evolution: The Ongoing Debate (1999).

catastrophism

[kə′tas·trə‚fiz·əm]
(geology)
The theory that most features in the earth were produced by the occurrence of sudden, short-lived, worldwide events.
(paleontology)
The theory that the differences between fossils in successive stratigraphic horizons resulted from a general catastrophe followed by creation of the different organisms found in the next-younger beds.
References in periodicals archive ?
First, it is necessary to consider whether "apocalypse"--as it is used in catastrophist rhetoric generally and South African prolepsis in particular--retains its theological meaning.
His works include The Second Prison (1991), Overthrown by Strangers (1992), The Catastrophist (1997), Havoc, in its Third Year (2004) and Zugzwang (2007).
According to the research by the UBC, alarmist and catastrophist news focusing on the risk of natural disasters and the urgency of political and economic action "places the emphasis on the heroic efforts of abstract and distant individuals whose motives are not always clear".
In contrast to earlier catastrophist assertions, this theory recognized sea level as a uniformitarian phenomenon, which, argued Emmons (1836), was "not infrequent in our day" (p.
Continuing with an island theme, the following chapter covers Charles Darwin's visit to the Cape Verde Islands and more specifically examines his (then) catastrophist views and his "conversion" to the more gradualist views of landscape modification expressed by Charles Lyell.
Another difference between the two models, says London-based RMS catastrophist Dr.
The most significant, which Pott uses as his title, is by Czeslaw Milosz, a founder of the catastrophist school of Polish poetry.
Set in the independence upheavals of the Congo in 1960, The Catastrophist is both a love story and a historical narrative.
THE CATASTROPHIST by Ronan Bennett (Review, pounds 14.
Gordon Woo, RMS catastrophist, said at a conference held here last week that bin Laden's death and the removal of deputy Abu Yahya Libi--who RMS called a "conduit" between Pakistan's military commanders and Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, Yemen, and other countries located to its west--have interrupted the planning of large-scale operations.
Debate over interpreting the evidence is indeed welcome, but it is only productive if it is accurate and well-informed--something that cannot be claimed of the text here which, for example, inaccurately casts the 'immigrant farmers' hypothesis as a catastrophist scenario as regards the impact on local indigenous groups and which incorrectly implies that this reviewer had suggested that forerunners of the 'halls' are to be found in Atlantic Europe.
Naipaul's A Bend in the River (1979)--with a cursory, though meaningful missionary presence--and Ronan Bennett's The Catastrophist (1997) representing "high" literature.